Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Top 15 Favourite Marilyn Manson Cover Versions

Hey everyone, I hope you’re all doing well.

Over the many years I’ve been writing I’ve always wanted to do a massive tribute to Marilyn Manson in some way/shape/form. None of the ideas I’ve drawn up have actually hit this website. Until now! I present to you, in my eyes, my favourite 15 Marilyn Manson cover versions.

Before I get into that, I’d just like to explain the four reasons why I’m doing this listing:

Firstly, Marilyn Manson’s career, literally from the start to right now, is littered full of cover versions. He’s done no less than 53 cover versions over a 28 year career. Some of his most famous songs have been cover versions. Some think that he does too many. It’s a fair point. But regardless of if you think he’s done too many or not, there’s no denying, the man can change a song, and put his own incredible spin on it. And he doesn’t do it in the same way, he really does change some songs COMPLETELY on their head. So this is my tribute to Marilyn Manson’s ability to do incredible and varying cover versions.

Secondly, Marilyn Manson is returning with his 10th album, due for release in 16 days time. The first single and video “We Know Where You Fucking Live” is already out, and it’s pretty good. Video is definitely NSFW but it’s one of the best videos he’s done in a while, or at least I think so anyway. It looks like his new album is going to be pretty heavy, and if so, that excites me.

Thirdly, I not long listened to Manson’s latest cover version, a song called “Stigmata”, originally done by the godfathers of Industrial Metal, Ministry. How good is it? It’s damn good. You’ll find out how good further in this listing. It’s the main reason why I’m making this list, it reminded me of all the other fantastic cover versions over the years.

My fourth and final reason why I’m doing this listing is because I’m also seeing Marilyn Manson live in December. It’s the first time I’ve seen him live in 14 years. Back 14 years ago it was also the first time I had ever seen a gig live. It’s going to be cool, going full circle, seeing Manson in the same city, with the same person (my big sister), all these years later.

Am I going to do other Marilyn Manson related posts? I’m unsure. As I said I was going to do a massive tribute to The God of Fuck but for a multitude of reasons it’s never materialised. I still have the ideas though. We’ll see. Until then, here’s what I think are the 15 best Marilyn Manson cover versions!

Note: This is a biased listing, this is my opinion, my word is not gospel. You have every right to feel differently to me, and if so, by all means comment below with your favourite cover versions! Also, if you click on the names of the "original" artists, it'll take you to a link of the original song. Enjoy!

#15 “You’re So Vain”
Released: 2012
As Heard On: Born Villain Album
Original By: Carly Simon
Better Than the Original?: No
Random Fact: Johnny Depp plays on guitar and drums in this cover.

I always thought it was funny that Marilyn Manson covered this song. Why? Because of the fact that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails used the famous line “you’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?” in his song “Starfuckers Inc”, a song criticising many musician celebrities, in particular, Marilyn Manson, who ended up featuring in the video as well. Maybe it’s Marilyn Manson’s attempt at sticking a middle finger at Trent Reznor, 12 years later. Or maybe he just likes the song? I don’t know.

As for the song itself, it’s okay. It’s really nothing special unfortunately. When I heard that Johnny Depp was featured in the song I wasn’t sure if he was going to sing as part of a duet or something, but it turns out he was just playing on guitar in the background. You wouldn’t know he was there if he wasn’t credited. It’s not one of Manson’s best cover versions, that being said I’m surprised it wasn’t a music single, because Johnny Depp’s image being in a music video with Manson could have created some kind of media buzz. Perhaps Manson too, knew this wasn’t that great. Anyway, it’s good enough just to make the list, but just about.

#14 “Rock 'n' Roll Nigger”
Released: 1995
As Heard On: Smells Like Children Album
Original By: Patti Smith
Better Than the Original?: Yes
Random Fact: "This is your world in which we grow, and we will grow to hate you" was originally used in the credits of Manson’s first album “Portrait of an American Family”.
I’ve put down “Better Than the Original” but in truth, I’m not the biggest Patti Smith fan. I never grew up listening to her and heard the Manson version of the song way before hearing the original. Smells Like Children has three cover versions, and all three feature on this list. I don’t think many people would say that the best of the three is this one, most prefer the other two and I’m definitely in that boat. That being said though there’s a claim that this one is the most controversial, mainly for the use of the “n” word. Then again Patti Smith’s original has the same reasoning as Manson’s use, that their definition of the “n” word is not about race but about being a “rebellious and honourable outsider”.

Regardless of the political or racial lyrics, the song itself is pretty damn good. Manson’s earlier work pre-Antichrist Superstar had strong punk rock roots that merged with industrial rock, and you can hear it very well here. It’s a fast paced, angry track that, despite being low on this list, is somewhat underrated and definitely not heard enough or played enough.

#13 “Personal Jesus”
Released: 2004
As Heard On: Lest We Forget – The Best Of Marilyn Manson
Album Original By: Depeche Mode
Better Than the Original?: No
Random Fact: This was the lead single off Manson’s Greatest Hits album, and the only new song recorded specifically for it. 

I love the original by Depeche Mode, and despite my love for Marilyn Manson, then and now, I knew it was going to be some doing, to create a better version of the song that Depeche Mode originally did. Manson, in my opinion, did fail in this task but it’s still a good cover version and it somehow felt “right” that he did “Personal Jesus”, especially as it was for his Greatest Hits album. Considering the risks and changes that Manson has often done to the songs he’s covered over the years, this version is very similar to the original, and that may give reason to why it’s not on the same levels, popularity wise as “Tainted Love” and “Sweet Dreams” were, which, of course, will be featured later on in this listing.

#12 “Down in the Park”
Released: 1995
As Heard On: Lunchbox Single B-Side
Original By: Tubeway Army
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: Marilyn Manson sung this as a duet with Gary Numan, lead singer of Tubeway Army, back in 1998. He hasn’t played the song live since.

Not trying to “toot” my own horn or anything, but I know a lot about Marilyn Manson’s career, and at one point went through his discography with a fine tooth comb. That’s how I discovered this gem, when I went through all of his B-sides. I once even did a “best of B-sides” Mixtape, unfortunately I’ve lost the list now and I haven’t published it on this site. Anyway I digress.

I do like the original by Tubeway Army, but I also really like Manson’s version. Choosing a favourite between the two is difficult, but I’m going to hand this one to Manson. And it’s got to be good, if Gary Numan himself wants you to sing it with him live on stage, it’s not often he’s done that over the years. Gary Numan and Tubeway Army paved the way for electronic machines in music, whilst specifically enhancing Goth Rock as a subgenre. By the time 1995 came along, electronic music had become mainstream and Goth Rock had largely died again. But here, we have a very different version of the original, but one that, if you could imagine a young Gary Numan starting his career in 1995 rather than in the late seventies, may have created. Musically it’s incredibly atmospheric and sends chills down your spine. Manson’s harsh vocals, sure, are nothing like Numan’s, but they work superbly with the music and with the lyrics as well. It’s a fine cover version that a lot of people haven’t heard.

#11 “Redeemer”
Released: 2002
As Heard On: Queen of the Damned Soundtrack
Original By: Jonathan Davis
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: Jonathan Davis, famously known as the lead singer of KoRn, did the soundtrack of the film.

I’ve never seen Queen of the Damned. It’s one of those films that’s always been on my “need to watch” list but never have done so. I may watch it soon though as I’m watching more films recently. Anyway, digressing again.

Jonathan Davis wrote and sung all of the songs for the film, but due to a strange legal issue, was not allowed to sing on the soundtrack. So instead, he got a load of other musicians to sing his songs on the album instead. Hence, Manson covered “Redeemer”.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard Manson’s version a lot more than the original, but for me Manson did a far superior job on the song. Lyrically it works well with Manson’s vocal style and it’s just so damn cool. I don’t really know what else to say about it really, if you’ve not seen the film, heard the songs or show any interest in it, chances are you’ll not bother to listen to it. But if you’ve seen the film, definitely give Manson’s version a listen, you won’t regret it.

#10 “Tainted Love”
Released: 2001
As Heard On: Not Another Teen Movie Soundtrack
Original By: Gloria Jones
Better Than the Original: No
Random Fact: To date, it’s Marilyn Manson’s most successful song in the UK, hitting #5 in the charts.

It’s funny actually, I get the impression that Marilyn Manson’s not that big a fan of his work on “Tainted Love”. Despite that, it’s become one of his most famous songs, surpassing the work he done on “Sweet Dreams” when it comes to how popular the song is. Why do I get the impression that Manson’s not that big a fan of it? He’s not played it live for the past 10 years. Also, he misunderstood what the theme of the soundtrack was; he didn’t realise it was supposed to be “80’s nostalgia”, which is referenced a lot, musically in the movie. Also, the music video is almost a parody of what people think goth rock is, but it’s done in a light hearted way so I think Manson just kind of went along with it really.

As for the actual song, yes I’ve placed it quite low in my list. Why? I’ve never been that big a fan of it. Sure, it’s fun to listen to once in a while, but, I dunno, I think it’s overplayed to be honest. It’s good but it’s not great. Simple as that really! He’s done far better cover versions, as you’ll see below.

#9 “Working Class Hero”
Released: 2000
As Heard On: Disposable Teens B-Side
Original By: John Lennon
Better Than the Original: No
Random Fact: To date, Marilyn Manson has only performed this live only the once, all the way back in 2000.

Marilyn Manson isn’t the biggest fan of the acoustic guitar. I don’t know why. But it’s rare that he’s done songs in that style. Back in 2000 he did a small acoustic set (which included this performance) and said it’s the first and probably last acoustic performance he’ll ever do. The Pale Emperor as an album has a lot of acoustic guitars in it, but that aside, so far it’s true, Marilyn Manson has rarely done any acoustic sessions. It’s a shame.

Anyway, “Working Class Hero” is a pure, acoustic cover version. John Lennon’s original is also stripped down, so as far as diversity between the versions go, there’s little different. But because of the fact that this is an acoustic performance, it really makes it all that more significant. As I said, it’s rare that we see Manson stripped down like this. His vocal ability, for better AND for worse, is on display here. Hearing him croak “working class hero is somethin’ to be” is a special moment. Sure, John Lennon is a far better singer, but if you want to hear one of the most exposed performances Manson has to offer, this is a song you must here.

#8 “Stigmata”
Released: 2017
As Heard On: Atomic Blonde Soundtrack
Original By: Ministry
Better Than the Original: No
Random Fact: Tyler Bates, the guitarist for Marilyn Manson, is more famously known for his film scores, he did the Atomic Blonde soundtrack and also famous scores on the likes of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films, the two John Wick films, the remake of Dawn of the Dead and The Devil's Rejects.

While myself personally wasn’t the biggest fan of The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson’s last album, it has in itself created a bit of a buzz around Marilyn Manson that I can’t remember seeing in quite some time. It’s refreshing. And a lot of that has to do with Tyler Bates, the current guitarist of Manson, but someone who’s had a good reputation of making great musical scores for big movies. His name is getting bigger and bigger as well, his work on the two Guardians of the Galaxy films was critically acclaimed, as well as the new Atomic Blonde film.

Atomic Blonde the film was set in the late eighties and Bates wanted to get songs from that era in the score, or get artists to cover songs from that era. Ministry’s “Stigmata” was released in 1989, hence the reason why Manson has covered it. And I must say, I absolutely loved Manson’s cover of it. So much in fact it inspired me to write this article in the first place. Is it as good as the original? No it’s not, but the original is so good in the first place it’s hard to top it. But what’s refreshing about Manson’s version, is how raw and powerful his voice sounds, it’s a quality that I’ve felt has been missing in many of the later albums, possibly because his voice is not as strong as it used to be. When he wants to channel that anger though, this cover is proof he certainly still can.

#7 “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Released: 1995
As Heard On: Smells Like Children
Album Original By: Eurythmics
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: Marilyn Manson decided to cover this song when he was on an acid trip, and imagined a slower, darker version of the song with him on vocals.

I reckon I’m going to piss off two sets of fans here. On one end, I’ll annoy people by saying that this version is better than the original classic by the Eurythmics. But on the other hand, I’ll annoy hardcore Manson fans by saying it’s only his seventh best cover version. Don’t forget, this is only my opinion!

When I first heard Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” I was gobsmacked. This classic 80s tune was turned into the stuff of nightmares… in a good way of course. The problem for me is, again, I find it to be overplayed somewhat. That’s why it’s this low in my list, and I think by placing it this low in the list it’s not because it’s bad, but because Manson has done over incredible cover versions too, that aren’t appreciated as much.

This is a song so entwined with Manson’s career it’s become the most played song live he’s ever done. He usually sets up this song halfway through his sets and has done all sorts of non-PG on-stage acts during it. I won’t go into details about some of the things he’s done, go on Youtube if you want to see it, I’m sure it won’t be hard to find. But as I said, as good as this cover is, I do genuinely believe he has done better over the years, that aren’t played anywhere near as much.

#6 “Mind of a Lunatic”
Released: 2003
As Heard On: This Is the New Shit B-Side
Original By: Geto Boys
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: This is the third longest song of Marilyn Manson’s entire official discography.

If there was one cover version on this list I’d say you’ve probably not heard, it would probably be this one. It’s more of the most obscure cover versions Marilyn Manson has ever done.

“Mind of a Lunatic” was originally done by the Geto Boys back in 1989, on their second album. The Geto Boys had some mild success in the nineties, but overall have been overlooked when it comes to other hip hop groups. Yes the original is a hip hop song.

If you heard Manson’s “Mind of a Lunatic” you would have NEVER have guessed that the original was a hip hop song. Manson doesn’t rap. He slowly slurs the lyrics in a deep, disturbing voice. The only music is an acoustic guitar which changes in pace from slow to very slow.

You think “Sweet Dreams” was nightmarish? Give this a listen. It’s nearly ten minutes long. It’s an absolutely disturbing song. The lyrics the Geto Boys have set out deal with rape, necrophilia, and murder. And Marilyn Manson doesn’t just do a cover version of this song, he COMPLETELY changes everything about it. When hip hop artists tell you they want to “f u up” or whatever, it sounds thuggish, but when Marilyn Manson slowly tells you what he’s done to these poor victims, it’s a grotesque and sickening outlook. If you like Marilyn Manson, you like horror, you like gore, and you like disturbing stories, this is the song for you. Every Marilyn Manson fan needs to hear this.

#5 “This is Halloween”
Released: 2006
As Heard On: The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack Reissue
Original By: Danny Elfman
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: The song has only been played live twice, both on Halloween in 2006 and 2007.

Another controversy! Do I prefer this to the original, damn right I do! I’m not the biggest fan of the film (more controversy!) so that’s reason enough to love this more.

I have two minds about this being #5 on this list. One part of me feels it should be lower on this list, I mean, it’s higher up than “Sweet Dreams”! But, in truth, I’ve put it this high because it’s simply so damn good, and I listen to it more than most other Marilyn Manson songs, cover versions or not. So I can’t really dispute it with my inner self – it’s simply one of my favourites.

It’s funny actually, despite this not getting any mainstream attention, and it being on the reissue of the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack, it’s actually become one of Manson’s most famous cover versions. Thanks to the power of YouTube, and someone editing the song over the intro sequence in the film where the song is in the actual film, it’s more viewed on there than the likes of “The Fight Song”, “Rock is Dead”, “The Nobodies”, “Tourniquet” and “Disposable Teens”, all very famous Manson songs. Marilyn Manson himself has only played it twice live, I’d love it if he played it more often, it’s a brilliant cover version.

#4 “The KKK Took My Baby Away”
Released: 2003
As Heard On: We're a Happy Family - A Tribute to Ramones Album
Original By: Ramones
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: “We're a Happy Family - A Tribute to Ramones” was produced by Rob Zombie, who has done a co-headline world tour with Marilyn Manson back in 2012.

Again, it’s probably an unpopular opinion to claim that Marilyn Manson’s version of this song is better than the original, but, then again, I’m a far bigger Manson fan than I am a Ramones fan, as much as I love the legendary punk band.

You know when I mentioned that there are certain Manson cover versions that simply turn the song completely on its head? This is another one of those moments. I don’t know how many people knew that Manson had covered this, but if you didn’t know, this is a MUST listen.

While the lyrics aren’t particularly happy, there’s a certain “boppiness” to the Ramones version, like a lot of their songs in fact. But Marilyn Manson? Nah, he doesn’t often do boppy music. He makes the original almost sound like a funeral march. It’s downbeat, gothic, depressing and really captures the lyrics of the original so well. Manson singing the lyrics really does make you feel like he’s lost his “baby”, where as the original almost feels like he’s happy in comparison. Again, if you’ve not heard this cover, you must.

#3 “Golden Years”
Released: 1998
As Heard On: Dead Man on Campus Soundtrack
Original By: David Bowie
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: David Bowie originally offered the song to Elvis Presley to perform, but he declined it so he recorded it himself.

For many years now of being a fan of Marilyn Manson, digging far into his discography and listening to probably around 95% of all his material, I have developed a Top 3 favourite cover versions. I don’t imagine the Top 3 will change, but they do change from 3-1 and 1-3 or whatever. At the moment for the purpose of this listing, I’ve placed “Golden Years” at no. 3. Apparently the movie that Manson did the song for sucked, but it’s still a spectacular cover version. And yes, I definitely prefer it to the original, despite how damn good David Bowie’s “Golden Years” is.

What’s different about this cover version than other covers that Manson has done? Well, he actually sounds… cheery. That might come across as a surprise but it’s true! And I love it. I get the feeling that Manson, who has many times talked about how much of an inspiration David Bowie is to him, had so much fun in the studio covering this song. I imagine him listening to the song a lot as a kid and his inner youth came out in the recording. The song is very similar to the original in structure, but with Manson’s unique vocals, and it’s just a blast. I love this song.

#2 “Five to One”
Released: 2000
As Heard On: Disposable Teens B-Side
Original By: The Doors
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: The passage of the song where Manson says “Mother, I want to fuck you” is not actually from “Five to One” but by a different song by The Doors called “The End”, a song full of controversy.

What’s not to love about this? The Doors’ version is brilliant anyway, but because it was a late-sixties track, it’s been enhanced incredibly by Manson here. The metal guitars sound amazing, and they start IMMEDIATELY as you press play. It’s loud, it’s angry, and Manson’s vocals are as good here as they ever were in any record he’s done. Apart from being a metal version with Manson on vocals, it does stay quite faithful to the original, but everything has been improved musically, I think anyway. But the icing on the cake really is the outro, when Manson starts quoting lyrics from the controversial version of “The End”, and starts singing in motherfucker. It’s a brilliant twist to end an incredible cover version of an already amazing song by The Doors. This song is a huge hit with me, I still play it to this day, rocking out as I did when I first heard it all those years ago.

Before I reveal #1 here’s a countdown from #15 to #2…

  • #15 - You're So Vain (2012, Carly Simon)
  • #14 - Rock 'n' Roll Nigger (1995, Patti Smith)
  • #13 - Personal Jesus (2004, Depeche Mode)
  • #12 - Down in the Park (1995, Tubeway Army)
  • #11 – Redeemer (2002, Jonathan Davis)
  • #10 - Tainted Love (2001, Gloria Jones)
  • #9 - Working Class Hero (2000, John Lennon)
  • #8 – Stigmata (2017, Ministry)
  • #7 - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1995, Eurythmics)
  • #6 - Mind of a Lunatic (2003, Geto Boys)
  • #5 - This Is Halloween (2006, Danny Elfman)
  • #4 - The KKK Took My Baby Away (2003, Ramones)
  • #3 - Golden Years (1998, David Bowie)
  • #2 - Five to One (2000, The Doors)

So, in my opinion, what’s Marilyn Manson’s best cover version? I believe it’s…

#1 “I Put a Spell on You”

Released: 1995
As Heard On: Smells Like Children
Original By: Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Better Than the Original: Yes
Random Fact: The song is used in an iconic scene in the movie “Lost Highway”, a film which also marks as Marilyn Manson’s debut as an actor.

So, as I stated at #3, any of the Top 3 could easily have been #1. For the purpose of this article I’ve placed this as #1. At the moment, I would say it’s Manson’s finest cover version, and I reckon probably 6 times out of 10, if you were to ask me, I would say it is this.

With “I Put a Spell on You”, Marilyn Manson completely changed the original, modernised it, made it way heavier but it’s not just the heaviness that makes this track. It starts off slow and creepy, and it just kicks in so damn well. And then the last third of the song kicks in even further. For me, some of my favourite songs over the years are songs with layers, that build up from something small and blow up from there, and this cover version does that and then some. It sounds nothing like Screamin' Jay Hawkins’ version or any other version of the song I’ve heard, Manson has made it his own. It’s a damn shame he’s not played it live since 1994 (before the studio version was released), I’d go crazy if he played it live when I see him later this year.

And another thing. If you ever want to see a song used to perfection within a movie, watch Lost Highway. Not only is the film amazing, but David Lynch uses this song in the most simple yet amazing way in the movie. It makes me love the song even more, watching the movie and hearing the song in it.

Here are the 15 songs in chronological order:

  • #12 Down in the Park (1995)
  • #7 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1995)
  • #1 I Put a Spell on You (1995)
  • #14 Rock 'n' Roll Nigger (1995)
  • #3 Golden Years (1998)
  • #9 Working Class Hero (2000)
  • #2 Five to One (2000)
  • #10 Tainted Love (2001)
  • #11 Redeemer (2002)
  • #4 The KKK Took My Baby Away (2003)
  • #6 Mind of a Lunatic (2003)
  • #13 Personal Jesus (2004)
  • #5 This Is Halloween (2006)
  • #15 You're So Vain (2012)
  • #8 Stigmata (2017)
Other facts:

  • 10 of the 15 songs on this list I’ve put down as “better” than the original.
  • 3 of the songs were off the album "Smells Like Children", which was a remix/companion album to "Portrait of an American Family".
  • Only 3 of the 15 songs were singles.
If you want to listen to the songs as a single playlist click here!

And that’s it! Many thanks for reading my listing. I may do another Manson related article, I haven’t decided it yet. Otherwise, keep following my work, and I’ll be back at some point or another I’m sure!

For the latest updates on my work, follow me on Facebook and Twitter here!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Game Review: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

"Considering the circumstances Activision truly have put Wumpa fruit, sweat and tears into giving us a brilliant remaster of the games we all remember."
Crash Bandicoot first came out in 1996 and was developed by Naughty Dog. They went on to make two sequels, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back in 1997 and Crash Bandicoot 3 Warped in 1998. After that Naughty Dog released a spin-off kart racing game called Crash Team Racing before leaving the Crash Bandicoot series to make other incredibly successful video game series in Jak and Dexter, Uncharted and The Last of Us.
No matter where your feelings lay with the other Crash Bandicoot games released between 2000 and 2010 it’s safe to say the series went downhill from then. From mixed reviews to negative reviews to different developers and different publishers, to an unsuccessful reboot in 2007, things have been frustrating for both Crash Bandicoot fans and anyone who has helped create any of the games at any point in its history. Activision, who have been the publisher since 2008, had a video game series that from 2010 to around 2015 or so, they didn’t know what to do with. It was like Activision were standing right next to a Nitro box in a Crash game, anxious to move around it just in case it explodes in their face but also they wanted to move forward. There was potential in the Crash Bandicoot series, but they didn’t know how to make it a success.
In around 2014 or 2015, rumours went around that Crash Bandicoot was going to have a reboot. Activision had to many times play down the rumours, mainly because they were just that, rumours. Even Naughty Dog had to emphasise that they don’t have the rights to the video game series anymore, and, even if they did, they don’t know if they would have made another Crash game. But the rumours turned into hype – fans wanted Crash to return. A beloved franchise and once mascot of the Sony Playstation, fans reminisced over how good the original Crash trilogy was. They wanted a new Crash game, or a remake. Crash Bandicoot, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario before it, had become a classic platformer that fans would talk about as being some of their favourite childhood memories. Surely the Crash Bandicoot series couldn’t stay in limbo?
Crabs always go sideways. It's just a fact.
And then in 2016, Activision announced they would fully remaster all three original Crash Bandicoot games. It wasn’t Naughty Dog, but Activision, partnered with Vicarious Visions (who worked on the series from 2002 to 2004), would redo the three games in full HD and with some new features too.
I would like to say, the circumstances that were handed to Activision were difficult. Firstly, the original trilogy is very well loved by a large selection of fans. They needed to redo the games to please them, but also keep the games open to newer fans who haven’t played the games before. They were taking on the three games originally done by Naughty Dog, a completely different developer, using very outdated coding, lots of which they were unable to reuse. Most importantly (in my opinion) they also needed to get the “feel” of the original trilogy correct, something intangible that made those games so great in the first place. Let’s get on with the review.
If you’ve not played Crash Bandicoot before, it’s a 3D platformer where you control Crash (or in some levels Coco, his sister) where you have to go from the start of the level to the end. In Crash 2 and 3 you’re also expected to collect a crystal placed somewhere in the middle of the level. You can jump and spin enemies and crates, the latter which gives you extra lives and “Wumpa Fruit”, which you get an extra life when you collect 100 of them. Other crates exist in the game like arrow crates which you can use to jump extra high on, TNT boxes which count  from 3 to 1 before exploding and exclamation crates which unlock a crate somewhere else in the level. In Crash 2 and 3 you can also do a slide attack and crawl, as well as do a belly flop and a high jump by doing the slide attack quickly followed by jumping. In Crash 3 you also can unlock other special abilities every time you defeat a boss. In Crash Bandicoot 1 you get a gem for collecting every single crate in a level and completing the level without losing a life. In Crash 2 and 3, they made this easier by only the need to collect all the crates. One thing that was added in Crash 3 was Time Trial mode, where you had to repeat levels as quickly as possible, getting time bonus crates along the way. Earning fast times gets you Sapphire, Gold and Platinum relics respectively. In the Crash Bandicoot remaster, they’ve added this feature into Crash 1 and 2 as well.
Nothing like a bit of breakdancin' before beating up a massive robot with torpedoes!
Again if you’re not familiar with the story of Crash Bandicoot, it’s not the most important part of the game but a brief outline is that Dr Neo Cortex create a machine called the Evolvo Ray which is used to mutate animals into super beasts. They experiment on Crash who Cortex was intending on being the leader of an army of animal soldiers. They try to put Crash into a machine called the Cortex Vortex which rejects Crash and allows him to escape his lab. Instead, Cortex kidnaps Tawna, Crash's girlfriend to experiment on instead. Crash decides he needs to rescue Tawna and defeat Cortex. In Crash 2 and 3, the story continues at the defeat of Cortex at the hands of Crash, where Cortex is hell bent on getting revenge on Crash by using crystals to power up the Cortex Vortex, to try and destroy the earth.
Comparing this to the original trilogy released between 1996 and 1998, naturally the graphics have had a complete overhaul. To be fair, these aren’t the best graphics on the Playstation 4 but they were never meant to be. They were meant to be crisp, polished and easy on the eyes. Activision have done a splendid job of making Crash look brilliant. Being a big fan of the original games, there are a couple of things I would have changed (like make Crash look a bit goofier than he does comparatively to the original) but I honestly can grasp at straws in terms of thinking of anything negative to say about the redesigning of the games. The redesigns of all the boss enemies look spot on too.
Being a massive fan of the original games, I was a little concerned when I heard they were remastering the soundtracks of the original games. The music in the original games has a big place in my heart and the job Naughty Dog did in the original would be hard to beat. But, pleasantly, I barely notice any difference when actually playing the game when hearing the music. It does sound almost identical most of the time and the few changes are welcome because they often substance rather than subtract, such as add native jungle sounds to emphasise the area of the world the games are set in.
It's not realistic enough. Surely Crash would be sweating buckets, being next to all those grills??
When it comes to the sound of the game, overall it does sound very crisp and each individual sound correlates well to what’s happening on screen. But – and a big but – perhaps its nostalgia, but for me, Activision have replaced many of the key sounds from the original games that didn’t need replacing. Think of Sonic as an example – can you imagine if they changed the sound of collecting rings? Or Mario, when he jumps into one of the tubes? These sounds are over 20 years old and are iconic parts of the respective games. When it comes to Crash Bandicoot, there are also classic sounds, completely omitted from the remaster which disappoints me as a guy growing up with the games as a kid. For instance, getting an extra life has a very mild “kerching” sound compared to the brilliant one from the original games. The “whoa” sound that Crash makes is completely changed too. The glorious “aaaaah” noise when collecting a crystal is replaced. Just these little things, these iconic sounds, should have remained in the game in my opinion to remind people that these are the foundations of a 20 year old classic platformer that should be in place in every Crash Bandicoot game ever released in the future. But never mind!
Speaking of sound, the voice actors have done a good job in the remaster overall, and most of the dialogue remains untouched too, with some subtle changers here and there mainly for clarity. My only bug bear with this remaster however is Cortex. That’s not to say that Lex Lang has done a bad job as Cortex, but when Clancy Brown offers his services to completely redo his work from Crash 2 and 3 and they don’t even consider him, it stings a little. Cortex from the trilogy is one of my all time favourite villains and Clancy Brown brought that life to life in a massive way during this period.
One thing that was a criticism of the Crash Bandicoot, but was improved on slightly in Crash 2 and 3 was the controls and mechanics. In what was a stumbling block in the original trilogy, the game play mechanics, combined with the controls, are “almost” identical, for good or for bad. As stated earlier in this review, for me an imperative factor in this transition was to make the games “feel” the same, the intangible quality that was so specific and evident in the original games but lacked in other titles, the feeling so hard to define, HAD to be present in this remaster. And the result? It’s 99% there. And I emphasise 99%. Sometimes the game play mechanics feel a little “off”, sometimes the controls are a little stiff, but overall they do feel the same, very much so. There’s one or two things that are different in the mechanics, again, something hard to give examples of, but one thing is the ice levels in Crash 2 – gliding across the ice doesn’t “feel” the same as the original games, they definitely got that wrong and you have to mentally adjust to that if you’re playing comparatively from the original from 1997.
However, I emphasise the mechanics and controls are almost identical, “for good or for bad”. Why? Crash Bandicoot is HARD. Especially the first game. The second and third games are a lot easier than the first, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that overall as a package, this game, even though it’s aimed at a younger audience, is a tough nut to crack. And while the controls and mechanics are almost identical to the original games, this could throw some people off. Aiming for that ambitious jump? Good luck. You’ll go, “how did I not make that jump! This is ridiculous!”. You’ll swear there was enough space between you and Nitro boxes. If you do Time Trials, be prepared for trial and error, getting far into a level before falling down a pit at the end. This game requires a lot of patience and it’s something a lot of modern day gamers may struggle to adapt to, when, generally speaking, games are easier than they were in the nineties.
No joke here. I love this picture, it's totally badass.
A final thing about the mechanics - if you’re someone that completely mastered the original Crash Bandicoot series (something that I actually did only 2-3 months ago), I would like to stress that this game isn’t identical. I said earlier that it’s 99% the same, but those 1% moments make a big difference. I got Game Over on Crash 2 a good few times in my run through that game, despite the fact that in my run through the original game only 2-3 months ago I finished the game with 82 lives and didn’t get Game Over once. There’s just certain parts of the remaster that are just harder than the original. I can’t put my finger on what makes those moments harder, they just are. You point and go – “I didn’t lose so many lives on this part of the game on the original!” – and you just can’t put into words what it is. Trust me on this, it’s not me being bad at the game, it’s just legitimately harder! That being said, if you’re not someone that played the games over and over again, and you only played Crash on occasion, you probably won’t notice. But it is super hard regardless!
This next paragraph is for those who have played the original trilogy and want to know what’s added into the game, or what remains on a subtle level. I mentioned it earlier briefly but you can now play as Coco in Crash 1 and 2, something you weren’t able to do before. Coco in these games plays almost identical as Crash does and is purely there as for novelty purposes, in the end her presence completely goes against the story of the game but they did justify that by saying that she “uses the time machine from Crash 3 to relive Crash’s old adventures”. Coco can’t play every level however, but she can play most of them. Also, she can’t be used to go against the bosses either. As stated earlier too, you can now do Time Trials in Crash 1 and 2. There’s also a leaderboard, so you can compare your times to how people are doing around the world, which is nice. Also, if you beat Crash 2, you can unlock the Spint Shoes (also named Crash Dash) ability from Crash 3, which is definitely required because some of the Platinum times that you need to beat are just crazy. The password saving system from Crash 1 has been removed and replaced with a simple system similar to Crash 2 and 3, and the bonus levels from Crash 1 allow you to try as many times as you wish, which too is similar to Crash 2 and 3. When you get Game Over, Uka Uka from Crash 3 is the one to give you the bad news, regardless of what game you’re playing. This, in my opinion is a bit odd, mainly due to the fact that he was imprisoned up until the story of Crash 3 so there’s an error of continuation. The jet pack levels of Crash 2 gives you an option of inverting the up and down buttons to down and up, if that makes sense, so those who found the controls confusing in the original game can change them in the Options menu.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a brilliant remaster of the original games which came out, 21, 20 and 19 years ago respectively. Activision considering the circumstances, truly have put Wumpa fruit, sweat and tears into giving us the games we all remember playing two decades ago but with very polished look, remastered audio, some subtle but very justified changes to the games and have truly given it a whole new lease of life. Everything from the original Crash trilogy is there, all the good and the bad and you can’t fault Activision in many ways for the job they have done. And this game is great value, available in the UK for £25-£30 at base value, a bargain compared to most new games that have come out. The question really now is, what happens from here? Do Activision bring out a Crash Bandicoot 4, in a similar style to these three? Or do they bring out a version of Crash Team Racing? Early reports are saying this game has sold tremendously well, so this certainly won’t be the last time we see Crash Bandicoot on our consoles!
Rating: ****1/4 stars
As an aside, this is what rating I would give the original Crash Bandicoot games released in the late nineties in comparison:
Crash Bandicoot - ***3/4 stars
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back - ****1/2 stars
Crash Bandicoot 3 Warped! - ****3/4 stars
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Friday, June 30, 2017

My Top 30 Favourite Crash Bandicoot Levels: #1 + more!

Hello there. And welcome to the final post in my Top 30 Favourite Crash Bandicoot Levels listing. I hope you’ve enjoyed counting down some of the best platformer levels of all time, and counting down the thirty days until the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy comes out. I’ll be playing the game later today. I can’t wait. I hope it’s as good as the originals! I may even review it some time. We’ll see.

Before I reveal what my favourite Crash Bandicoot level of all time is, here’s a recap from #30 to #2…

#30 - Heavy Machinery (Crash 1, Level 18)

#29 - Snow Go (Crash 2, Level 2)

#28 - Bone Yard (Crash 3, Level 4)

#27 - Jungle Rollers (Crash 1, Level 2)

#26 - Piston It Away (Crash 2, Level 21)

#25 - The Lab (Crash 1, Level 29)

#24 - High Time (Crash 3, Level 13)

#23 - Night Fight (Crash 2, Level 23)

#22 - Road Crash (Crash 3, Level 14)

#21 - Crash Dash (Crash 2, Level 5)

#20 - N. Sanity Beach (Crash 1, Level 1)

#19 - Dino Might! (Crash 3, Level 11)

#18 - Native Fortress (Crash 1, Level 9)

#17 - Double Header (Crash 3, Level 15)

#16 – Boulders (Crash 1, Level 4)

#15 - Cold Hard Crash (Crash 2, Level 18)

#14 - Midnight Run (Crash 3, Level 10)

#13 - Castle Machinery (Crash 1, Level 27)

#12 - Eggipus Rex (Crash 3, Level 32)

#11 - Rolling Stones (Crash 1, Level 7)

#10 - Toad Village (Crash 3, Level 1)

#9 – Upstream (Crash 1, Level 5)

#8 - Bear It (Crash 2, Level 8)

#7 - Hog Ride (Crash 3, Level 8)

#6 - Hog Wild (Crash 1, Level 8)

#5 - Turtle Woods (Crash 2, Level 1)

#4 - Orient Express (Crash 3, Level 3)

#3 - Hang Eight (Crash 2, Level 3)

#2 - Hang'em High (Crash 3, Level 7)

So! Here we are! What is my favourite Crash Bandicoot level of all time? It happens to be…

#1 Un-Bearable
Game: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Level: 15 (of 27)
Level Type: Chase
Random Fact: This is the only Chase level in the entire series where you also ride an animal. The level is called “Escape From Papa Bear” in Japan, which confirms that the large bear running after you is in fact Polar’s dad and possibly his relatives too?
Imagine this. You’ve played Crash 1. You’ve beaten Boulders. You’ve played through the other Chase levels. They were fun.

You then play Crash 2. You’ve beaten Crash Dash. You’ve noticed that the Chase levels in Crash 2 are similar but longer chase levels to the ones in Crash 1.

You then get to Level 15. But something’s different. It’s not a big lump of rock chasing you, oh no. It’s a MASSIVE polar bear!

You run away from this magnificent beast, with even more adrenaline pumping through you than the other chase levels. That rock was a pain in the butt to deal with, but this bear makes the whole thing so much more exhilarating.

The level is nearly over. But what’s this? Is that Polar, from the 8th level “Bear It”. Seriously?? I’m going to ride Polar whilst running away from a bear ten times his size?? This is insane!!

For me, Un-Bearable is the most fun Crash Bandicoot level of all time. I love Chase levels. I love riding the Hog, Polar and Pura in each game. But for me, Un-Bearable combining the Chase levels whilst riding Polar is just the most fun I’ve ever had in a Crash Bandicoot game. The only problem is that that part of the level is too short. Otherwise, the whole level is brilliant in its design, and it’s clever in the way it throws the player right off, when they expect another rock chase level but instead get the massive polar bear chase instead. It’s just genius. And so much fun! And is my favourite Crash Bandicoot level of all time.

And this is what Un-Bearable looks like in the Remaster!

So there we have it! If you’ve been following this listing every day for the last month I thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed the list, and by all means, tell me what your favourite Crash Bandicoot levels are!

Here are some nerdy things that I tend to do when I do a big listing…

Most Popular Level Styles
5x Jungle Levels (Turtle Woods #5, Rolling Stones #11, N. Sanity Beach #20, Night Fight #23, Jungle Rollers #27)

3x Chase Levels (Un-Bearable #1, Boulders #16, Crash Dash #21)

3x Prehistoric Levels (Eggipus Rex #12, Dino Might! #19, Bone Yard #28)

2x Arabian Town Levels (Hang'em High #2, High Time #24)

2x Factory Levels (Castle Machinery #13, Heavy Machinery #30)

2x Medieval Levels (Toad Village #10, Double Header #17)

2x Pura Levels (Orient Express #4, Midnight Run #14)

2x Race Levels (Hog Ride #7, Road Crash #22)

2x Snow Levels (Cold Hard Crash #15, Snow Go #29)

2x Stream Level (Hang Eight #3, Upstream #9)

Those level styles account for 25 of the 30 games in the list!

As you can see, I was quite impartial when choosing my favourite levels. It wasn’t completely intentional, I genuinely do believe these are my thirty favourite levels. I’m surprised Crash 1 had so many levels in the list to be honest, because overall, it’s my least favourite Crash game by some margin. Crash 3 is my favourite though, but Crash 2 is nearly as good and sometimes I do think, do I prefer it? But then reaffirm to myself that Crash 3 is the best.

In play-through order – here are the levels in order of which you would play them if you were to play Crash 1, 2 then 3 in order. Note that secret levels are at the end of the games, even if you can play them earlier.

Crash Bandicoot
#1 N. Sanity Beach (#20)
#2 Jungle Rollers (#27)
#4 Boulders (#16)
#5 Upstream (#9)
#7 Rolling Stones (#11)
#8 Hog Wild (#6)
#9 Native Fortress (#18)
#18 Heavy Machinery (#30)
#27 Castle Machinery (#13)
#29 The Lab (#25)
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
#1 Turtle Woods (#5)
#2 Snow Go (#29)
#3 Hang Eight (#3)
#5 Crash Dash (#21)
#8 Bear It (#8)
#15 Un-Bearable (#1)
#18 Cold Hard Crash (#15)
#21 Piston It Away (#26)
#23 Night Fight (#23)
Crash Bandicoot 3 Warped!
#1 Toad Village (#10)
#3 Orient Express (#4)
#4 Bone Yard (#28)
#7 Hang'em High (#2)
#8 Hog Ride (#7)
#10 Midnight Run (#14)
#11 Dino Might! (#19)
#13 High Time (#24)
#14 Road Crash (#22)
#15 Double Header (#17)
#32 Eggipus Rex (#12)

Level Numbers Featured Multiple Times
Very nerdy, I know, but these levels are featured across multiple games:
Level 1 – 3 times – (N. Sanity Beach,  Turtle Woods, Toad Village)
Level 2 – 2 times (Jungle Rollers, Snow Go)
Level 3 – 2 times (Hang Eight, Orient Express)
Level 4 – 2 times (Boulders, Bone Yard)
Level 5 – 2 times (Upstream, Crash Dash)
Level 7 – 2 times (Rolling Stones, Hang'em High)
Level 8 – 3 times (Hog Wild, Bear It, Hog Ride)
Level 15 – 2 times (Un-Bearable, Double Header)
Level 18 – 2 times (Heavy Machinery, Cold Hard Crash)

…and that’s the end! Thank you so much, if you read towards the end. I’m not sure when I’ll be back to do a website post, but subscribe to my site if you wish, or give me a “like” on Facebook below or follow me on Twitter, to keep up to date with what I do next! I’m still doing radio shows so I’m always busy! Until next time, take care!

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